April 11, 2008
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Iowa City, IA — As the Hawkeyes enjoy their final practice day before Saturday’s North Central Regional Championships, Iowa senior Katie Burke prepares for her last weeks as a Hawkeye. After four years as one of Iowa’s leading gymnasts, the Palatine, IL native will graduate this May.
The Hawkeyes are returning to regional team competition for the first time since 2005, Burke’s freshman season, and the senior couldn’t be more thrilled. She competed at the 2007 Regional Championships with Kara Pinjuv and Jenifer Simbhudas but the three were without the support and strength of the team.
“I’m so excited the whole team is going to regionals; last year was great but it is not the same without the team there,” says Burke. “I am looking forward to Saturday because everyone has worked so hard to get to this point. It is going to be a great experience.”
Through tough practices and an intense regular-season campaign, Burke has remained focused while at the same time motivating her teammates to have fun on a daily basis. Focusing on having fun during practice and competition is something that has proven effective for Burke in the past and she wants her teammates to enjoy gymnastics in the same way.
“I compete well and do great when I’m having fun. That’s the main thing I focus on because when the focus is off that I don’t do as well. I try to get my teammates involved and tell a joke or funny story to get them to laugh, to remind them that we are here to have fun and because we enjoy it,” says Burke.
Although Burke’s time with Iowa may be coming to an end, she will never forget the impact that being a part of this team has had on her confidence.
“I came to Iowa and I was shy but meeting all of these people and being a part of this program has made me a stronger person,” says Burke. “My confidence level has skyrocketed. I have found myself and who I want to be. I used to always worry about what people thought of me, but now I worry about myself and I’ve realized that people will like me for who I am.”
Burke’s time at Iowa has not just improved her confidence but it has also provided her with amazing experiences. From bus trips and plane rides, to meeting numerous younger fans and a trip to the 2007 NCAA Championships, Burke has memories that will last forever.
“One of my favorite things about Iowa Gymnastics is that I’ve had the opportunity to meet so many young gymnasts who support us. When we win, I love to find the young fans to give my bouquet of flowers to because it makes their day which makes me happy,” says Burke.
“One of my best memories was when my name was announced as qualifying for nationals. I may have made a fool of myself because I was running around hugging everyone, but I don’t care, it was great,” says Burke. “That memory stands out the most because I didn’t think I could do it. Everyone else knew I could but I didn’t realize until I was selected.”
As Burke concludes her senior season she looks forward to a future in speech pathology. After graduation she will observe in speech clinics to prepare for her future in the field and also plans to attend graduate school. Burke ideally wants to work with children who have speech impediments or with athletes who need media training.
“I want to work one-on-one because I relate to kids so well. I want to help them grow and realize who they are. I was so shy when I was younger and I want to work with kids who are shy and help them find their personalities while overcoming speech issues,” says Burke. “I would also like to work with athletes who have trouble speaking to the media because that is such a big part of being an athlete at the higher levels.”
Despite what path Burke takes after she leaves Iowa, her memories and fun personality will surely propel her to a successful future off the gymnastics floor.
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